AMERKS ELIMINATED FROM SPENGLER CUP BY TEAM CANADA
DAVOS, SWITZERLAND -- The Rochester Americans exploded for three goals in the second period to erase a three-goal deficit, but Team Canada was able to withstand the comeback and hold on for a 6-3 win over the Amerks Sunday night in the quarterfinal matchup of the 2013 Spengler Cup at Vaillant Arena in Davos, Switzerland. The loss officially eliminates the Amerks from the international tournament, which Rochester last took part in during the 1996-97 season.
Luke Adam and Phil Varone each notched two assists, while Alex Hutchings, Dan Catenacci and Joel Armia provided the scoring for the Amerks, who went 0-3 in the tournament. The goaltending tandem of Nathan Lieuwen and Matt Hackett combined to make 28 saves in the loss, including 11 from Lieuwen, who started in net for Rochester but left the game following the first intermission. With their pair of assists tonight, Adam (2+2) and Varone (1+3) each finished the tournament with a team-high four points.
Team Canada was led by a pair of goals each from former Amerk Jacob Micflikier and leading point-getter Byron Ritchie, while Ahren Spylo notched a team-high three assists and former American Hockey League MVP Darren Haydar chipped in a pair of assists for the Canadians, who advance to Monday’s round of semifinals. Chris Mason and Allen York also teamed up to make 24 saves, despite Mason getting the yank after allowing three goals on 22 shots through 40 minutes of action.
“I thought we got better every game throughout the tournament,” said Amerks head coach Chadd Cassidy. “I thought it would’ve been easy to fold up after getting down 3-0, especially the way Canada really pushed during the first period. We came back, though, and the guys played together and it was a really good team effort. All-in-all, I felt like we were making strides in the right direction over these last three games.”
The Canadians jumped out to a 1-0 lead as Ritchie potted his second goal of the tournament 7:31 into the opening period. Circling through the neutral zone, Ritchie caught a stretch pass from Jason Williams just outside the Rochester blueline and, with an open lane to the net, fired a quick wrist shot from below the left face-off dot that snuck by Lieuwen on the short-side.
Team Canada quickly put the Amerks in a 3-0 hole courtesy of back-to-back power-play tallies from Micflikier just 63 seconds apart, with the first coming at 15:05. After Lieuwen made the initial save on Brett McLean’s shot from the right half-wall, the puck trickled through the legs of the Rochester netminder and Micflikier, camped out to the right of the crease, was there to jam it home.
Just over a minute later, Micflikier and the Canadians struck again on the man-advantage when the former Amerk provided a perfect deflection of Spylo’s offering to the upper left corner to send Team Canada into the first intermission with a 3-0 advantage.
Rochester halted the surging Canadians just 1:55 into the middle frame as Hutchings sniped the top left corner to make it a 3-1 game. Johan Larsson gained Team Canada’s zone and left it for Hutchings, who was streaking in from the right wing boards. Hutchings then skated into the right circle and delivered an absolute blast that fooled Mason and hit nothing but twine for his first goal of the Spengler Cup.
Team Canada would restore its three-goal cushion less than five minutes later with Haydar, a two-time Calder Cup champion, setting up Walser, who’s shot through traffic snuck by a screened Hackett, putting the Canadians up 4-1 at the 6:06 mark.
The Amerks would answer right back, however, with Catenacci finishing off a perfectly executed 3-on-2 fast break to cut the deficit in half and jumpstart a three-goal run for Rochester. Adam rushed into Team Canada’s zone along the left wing boards and sent a cross-ice pass to a wide-open Varone waiting just inside the blueline. Varone wasted no time continuing the rush, taking two strides before connecting a centering feed to an oncoming Catenacci, who one-touched the pass inside the left post from the top of the crease.
Armia would bring Rochester to within a goal just 37 seconds later on the power-play when he attempted to setup Adam with a back-door pass to the far post. The Canadian defense would block the passing lane, but a fortuitous bounce would cause the puck to make its way back to Armia and his quick backhand fooled Mason before the former NHL netminder could get across his crease. Varone and Adam would again draw the assists, giving the pair both two-point nights and points in each of the last two games in the tournament.
“That is becoming in my mind a trademark of our team,” said Cassidy, referring to his team’s explosive second period, which saw the Amerks erupt for three goals and outscore Team Canada 3-1 in the frame. “The same thing happened in our last league game before we came overseas. We’re not a high scoring team, so like I said, it would have been easy to fold up and go home being down three goals, but the guys stayed with it, they played together, competed hard and I’m proud of them.”
The third period saw the Amerks get into early penalty trouble with Rochester taking three consecutive minors over a span of 2:52. After holding the Canadians off through the first two man-down situations, Team Canada would eventually capitalize for its third power-play goal of the game as Haydar spun a pass from below the goal-line that Ritchie one-timed over the left shoulder of Hackett for a 5-3 score.
With two minutes left in regulation, the Amerks pulled Hackett in favor of an extra attacker, but Team Canada would seal the 6-3 win with an empty-netter from former AHL All-Star Alexandre Giroux with 43 seconds left in regulation.
“I told the guys after the game, that despite the outcome, for us, this was going to be an experience we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives. Despite the scores of the games, and not winning a game, we’d obviously like to have won, but we played good hockey over here,” said Cassidy. “Had we had more time to adjust to the style of play, the time zone and all of the different things that were involved in it, maybe we would’ve done a little bit better. But I think we can leave here with our heads held high and feel we showed ourselves really well in this tournament.”
Rochester resumes its American Hockey League schedule when it visits the Utica Comets for their first game of the New Year on Friday, Jan. 3 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The 7:00 p.m. matchup will be the seventh of 10 meetings between the intrastate rivals and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK.